A brief encounter with Matt Carter

By Sarah Daniell

A brief encounter with Matt Carter, maritime archaeologist, diver and one of five local presenters of Coast New Zealand.
Diving maritime archaeologist Matt Carter who was involved in filming Coast New Zealand.
Diving maritime archaeologist Matt Carter who was involved in filming Coast New Zealand.

When have you ever been out of your depth?

In 2009, I was awarded the Our World Underwater Australasian Rolex Scholarship. My first introduction to the scholarship involved travelling to New York to receive the award at a formal dinner at the Explorers Club. This was quite a daunting experience for a guy who grew up on a farm on the Canterbury Plains.

One of the most important rules of Scuba diving is not to dive outside the limits of your training and experience. As such, I haven't really put myself in a position where I was "out of my depth". However, I have undertaken some really challenging dives including using a chainsaw at 30m with visibility less than the length of the blade and cutting steel with an underwater gas-axe burning at 4000 degrees, 20cm from my face.

Describe the truth about NZ's maritime environment - will viewers of your show be shocked or in awe?

For non-divers, the biggest revelation is likely to be just how diverse, plentiful and accessible our country's marine environment is. We have one of the longest coastlines in the world, and no one lives more than 120km from the sea. Unfortunately, however, a lot of Kiwis seem to have taken the marine environment for granted and we are starting to see the results of overfishing and pollution.

Is it all devastation and disaster, below the depths?

On a global scale, the marine environment has taken an absolute hammering, especially since the industrial revolution. If we are to reverse or at least stem the damage, there needs to be a massive cultural shift. The ocean with its natural and cultural resources (including shipwrecks) needs to be seen as something to be protected and not exploited for short-term gain.

What has your voyage of discovery around oceans taught you about yourself?

Learning to dive opened up an entirely new world for me and showed me that there are opportunities out there beyond what I could have ever imagined and that I was capable of chasing after these opportunities.

How do you deal with the clash in cultural perspectives when it comes to Norwegians and the Japanese with whale hunting?

As a maritime archaeologist, I have investigated the history and archaeology of the whaling industry in New Zealand's past, and I believe that is where that industry belongs: in the past. As someone who is passionate about the marine environment, killing these amazing animals for no reason is both ridiculous and unforgivable.

Ever eaten whale?

No.

What personal sacrifice would or have you made for the marine environment?

I am passionate about the ocean and have dedicated my career to exploring and recording shipwrecks and other archaeological sites within it. It is my hope that by communicating the historical and ecological significance of these sites to the public, I can use my working life to help protect these non-renewable resources for future generations.

Where have you not yet been that you would walk across cut glass to go?

I have a very long bucket list, which gets longer every year. The number one place, however, would have to be Antarctica. This is one of the most challenging locations in which to dive but the epic stories of the early explorers really capture my imagination.

Where would you never go?

When I first started diving in 2000, a group of divers died while diving at French Pass. They were diving on the wrong tide and were sucked to the bottom of a whirlpool, where three of them were drowned. It would not necessarily stop me diving there, but I would be very cautious. It is something that has stuck with me over the last 16 years of diving.

If you could listen to music under water, what would be the soundtrack to your dive?

Being under water is a combination of moments of peacefulness and exhilaration, with different dives offering different levels of each. Being a big New Zealand music fan, I would have to say a mix of Salmonella Dub and Shapeshifter would be ideal.

Dan Carter is your cousin. How are you like him?

We are obviously both extremely passionate and dedicated about what we do; he with rugby, and me with diving, although I am also a massive rugby fan. Here in New Zealand, rugby and Dan are practically central to everyday life whereas although we have absolute world class heritage, maritime archaeology has a very low profile.

Coast New Zealand, hosted by renowned Scottish archaeologist and historian Neil Oliver, is on Tuesdays on Tv One, 7.30pm.

- Canvas

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